President Donald Trump came to the White House without friends and with a misunderstanding of his role -- but those who know him best say he can fake his way through the job.
The former real estate developer and reality TV star came to the presidency with few political allies and no friends at all, his biographer and longtime associates told Politico.
“One of the loneliest people I’ve ever met,” his biographer Tim O’Brien told the website. “He lacks the emotional and sort of psychological architecture a person needs to build deep relationships with other people.”
Trump has consistently expressed his paranoid worldview over the years through multiple interviews, describing other people as "ruthless," "cruel" and "vicious" -- and former classmates say he's always been closed-off.
“You just couldn’t be friends with him,” said Sandy McIntosh, a former schoolmate at New York Military Academy who also knew Trump from a beach club on Long Island.
McIntosh described the future president as humorless.
"You think of humor as a basic, empathic way that friendships are formed — and he just didn’t," McIntosh told Politico.
Another classmate, Peter Ticktin, described Trump as aloof, which he thinks is part of his natural talent for leadership and the military school's rigid culture.
“He just didn’t need to share his deepest thoughts," said Ticktin, who voted for Trump. “He was nobody’s real buddy, but nobody was anybody’s real buddy.”
Two of the men who've known the president longest -- Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone and Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy -- believe Trump can survive in Washington without any friends.
“He’s very much his own man,” Stone said. “This is not a guy who’s ever told what to do, what to say, where to go, who he can meet with, who he can’t meet with, who he can talk to, who he can’t talk to, where he can travel to. He’s really a free spirit and he deeply resents attempts to handle him or manage him or control him -- which is why ultimately I believe General (John) Kelly will fail.”
Trump came into the White House expecting deference, according to Ruddy, but he's confident the president can draw on his business experience to succeed.
“I think he saw the presidency as more of a monarchy,” Ruddy said. “I think he’s ultra-gifted in the things in politics you need for relationship-building. He’s an impresario at this stuff.”
Ticktin, his former classmate, believes Trump can fake it until he makes it.
“Normal socializing with people, I don’t think that’s ever really been his thing," Ticktin told Politico. "But he knows how to work a room. He’s charming, and he knows how to connect with people in a room and make them feel like they’ve been acknowledged."
But Wayne Barrett, who covered Trump for decades until his death from cancer one day before Inauguration Day, predicted a darker end for the celebrity tycoon who frequently expressed admiration for the notoriously reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.
“Over the years, he had openly toyed with a final surreal twist to the plot that had become his life," Barrett wrote about Trump in 1992, following a bankruptcy. "He told friends that he might end up a Howard Hughes-like recluse, squirreled away, allowing his fingernails to grow longer than his stubby fingers. That poignant script may have appealed to the loner quality in him that had always kept him apart. The Hughes scenario only worked, though, if he could figure out a way back to the top.”